Oliver Cromwell was the first man in history to unite the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He then ruled these lands with nearly unbounded power as Lord Protector have the authority over even the church. This all began with the English Civil War. Cromwell was a member of a Parliament that was tearing itself apart. Most members of Parliament were Presbyterians and wish to strip the church of the excesses and bishops imposed by Charles I but to keep Charles I as king. The minority, Cromwell and his Independents, wished to totally dismantle the formal church and do away with Charles I. Cromwell formed the New Model Army to defeat Charles I and his Royalist allies. Cromwell was wildly successful and Charles I became a prisoner of Parliament. Cromwell and the Independents intended to punish Charles I for interfering with the church and promote independent Protestant worship but the Presbyterians wanted to impose their religion on the whole country and negotiate peace with Charles I.
The Second Civil War erupted when Scottish Presbyterians invaded England with intent to destroy the New Model Army. Instead, under Cromwell, the New Model Army routed the Scots. The Presbyterians in Parliament began to fear Cromwell but he quickly forced these men out of Parliament altogether. Only about fifty Independents remained; this became known as the Rump Parliament. Cromwell and the Rump Parliament then took Charles I to court for treason where Charles I staunchly refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court. Charles I was found guilty and beheaded. The Rump Parliament then totally eliminated the office of king.
Charles I’s son, Charles II, sought to regain the throne as its rightful heir so he allied himself with the Scots and invaded England beginning the Third English Civil War. Once again Cromwell and his New Model Army destroyed the invading Scots but Charles II escaped with his life. Cromwell occupied Scotland and forced the General Assembly of the Kirk to dissolve.
The Rump Parliament failed to provide effective rule but intended to remove Cromwell as Commander in Chief. Cromwell, with support from his New Model Army, forcibly dissolved Parliament. Cromwell and his officers then drew up a new constitution and Cromwell become Lord Protector of England. Cromwell then called a new Parliament but immediately dissolved it when he was met with opposition as Charles I had always done.
As Lord Protector, Cromwell granted his generals governorships in the regions of England and paid them with a new tax unapproved by Parliament. When Parliament was next called they, in desperation, offered Cromwell the title of King of England. This was a ploy to place a check on Cromwell’s uncontrollable power but the Lord Protector declined the offer. In 1658, with no end to Cromwell’s reign in sight, he suddenly fell ill and died. He was buried with all the splendor of a king and even a statue in his likeness wore the crown. Cromwell was never king in life but he was in death.